my rather opinionated list of the best books for learning how to knit

my rather opinionated list of the best books for learning how to knit

Good morning … I actually got to sleep in an extra, blessed THREE hours this morning since we knew last night it would be a snow day. And we did get a bunch (about a foot) and now it’s 32 and sleeting on top of the snow … so I’m thinking we’re going to be house-bound for a while. A PERFECT time to learn to knit

What follows is my list of the 10 (with a bit of fiddling, as I’m linking ALL Elizabeth Zimmermann’s books together as “one”) best knitting how-to books I’ve used and really like. The books are listed alphabetically, by author, as they all have something that puts them on this list. This is a very one-sided list — these are MY choices — but I’m sure you’ll agree with many, if not all, of the selections:

1. Bliss, Debbie – How to Knit – excellent overview and illustrations from this British designer. She’s got great projects to help the newbie create something besides scarves and bean-bags. Bliss pushes the newbie to try new stitch patterns and get outside the garter-stitch comfort zone.
2. Falick, Melanie — Kids Knitting is NOT just for kids. This is a great book I often recommend to new knitters since the projects are fun, the text easy to read and (more importantly) follow, and the colorful book is a nice gentle introduction to knitting. The projects are slanted toward kids (funky scarves and knitted dolls) but the content is appropriate for all those who may be a tad fearful of picking up the needles.
3. Hiatt, June Hemmons – The Principles of Knitting – this encyclopedic book has recently been reprinted (the original was published in the ’80s and was going for $300+ on ebay). She’s a bit opinionated and has some odd terms for what is what but basically this is a pretty thorough book to at least look thru. This makes a great quick reference to keep on your shelf to remember how to do kitchener … or what is a selvage stitch … or other terms and techniques.
4. Knit Simple Magazine – KnitSimple Knitting Workshops: Clever tips and techniques to guarantee success — excellent “workshops” guide the knitter through projects from first-knitting to intricate work. I love the illustrations and clear instructions.
5. Knitter’s Magazine – The Knitter’s Handbook: Essential Skills and Helpful Hints – I like this one because it’s small enough to fit in a knitting bag, spiral bound so it stays open, and has wonderful graphics and clear descriptions. A well-thought out and quick reference book that is quite portable.
6. Radcliffe, Margaret – Knitting Answer Book – is a great small sized book (perfect for keeping in your knitting bag) with brief instructions and clear illustrations of various techniques (including the kitchener stitch and other bugaboos that are so easy to forget). Radcliffe, who has written other books (I love her Circular Knitting Workshop book!), always does a great job with explaining and showing exactly HOW to do things.

... and this is why we're having a snow day today (with more snow on the way tomorrow!)

… and this is why we’re having a snow day today (with more snow on the way tomorrow!)

7. Righetti, Maggie — Knitting in Plain English is a chatty overview of all things knitterly. Righetti’s style may prove a little dated for some (there are not any gorgeous glossy photos or sharp graphics) but the homey-ness of this book makes it a charming, and very informative read.
8. Seiffert, Jennifer E. – Fearless Knitting Workbook is probably my second favorite (behind EZ’s books) in the how-to-knit category. Each step is broken down into lessons (with a project at the end of each) so the reader can really develop their knitting. The graphics are large enough to see and use, the writing is easy to understand, and the overall layout of this gem (including the hidden-spiral binding, allowing the book to lay flat) makes it a classic.
9. Stanley, Montse — Reader’s Digest Knitter’s Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to the Principles and Techniques of Handknitting covers all the basics in an encyclopedic fashion. Ms. Stanley was a popular British knitwear designer (who died a while back) who compiled a book packed with the tools, tips and techniques necessary for starting knitting and then expanding your knitting to great things.
10. Zimmermann, Elizabeth — Knitting Without Tears is THE bible about knitting (IMHO). Zimmermann is the mother of all knitters; she explains in this very readable volume that knitting is not hard, knitting is not difficult, and knitting is what YOU make it. She wrote a few other books, sprinkled with her words of wisdom and pearls of tips – that are well-worth having on your resource shelf: EZ’s Knitter’s Almanac – which has a year’s worth of fabulous projects with lots of knitting advice included; Knitting Around – which gives you a glimpse into her private life and her innovative brain. The Knitting Workshop is wonderful at guiding the knitter (new or experienced) thru some different techniques and to enjoy yourself while you’re learning; the book is based on an old, public tv show that EZ recorded in the late 60s/early 70s. A Knitting Glossary on DVD have been “digitally remastered” and Meg Swansen, EZ’s daughter has add tons of great additional information/clarification. A salute to EZ was compiled by Meg after EZ died called, The Opinionated Knitter, which includes reprionts of many of her first newsletters – which are priceless knitting prose! Meg Swansen recently published (2011) another book of EZ’s patterns, based on notebooks written when EZ delved into the mysteries of garter stitch. Titled Knit One, Knit All, this book lacks the style of EZ’s prose but has the signature creative designs and construction that are pure EZ.

So, since it’s so blasted cold outside … why not cuddle up near the fire and learn a new skill? Believe me, once started on this adventure … you’ll never want to stop (I’ve been knitting constantly for 40+ years!) As a reminder, any books you order from Amazon thru the above hyper-links give me a small “kickback” fee that helps my purchase more books to review for you. I rarely receive review copies so all the books I recommend, I bought. Enjoy! sig block

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